When Zimbabwe leader Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the shock appointment of his ailing understudy, Vice President General Constantino Chiwenga (Rtd), as the Minister of Health and Child Care this past week, he did not make the controversial decision voluntarily, reports say.
Impeccable sources privy to the internal ructions threatening to tear the long-ruling Zanu PF apart have revealed that it was the militant deputy president, himself, who ‘opted to take over’ the ministry amid differences with his 77-year-old boss over the successor to the sacked controversy-ridden former health minister, Obadiah Moyo.
Last week’s announcement of VP Chiwenga as the new Health minister has stirred serious debate on the constitutionality of the move with some legal experts arguing that the shock move was not in sync with Zimbabwe’s supreme law.
From a legal perspective, it has been argued that it is unconstitutional for a vice president to also double up as a minister.
Well-placed sources told one private weekly that Mnangagwa was starkly opposed to Chiwenga’s preferred choice of his personal doctor and deputy Health minister John Mangwiro to be the substantive replacement of the disgraced former minister Moyo, resulting in a deadlock.
The influential former army general who is believed to be amongst a section of disgruntled government officials not happy with rampant corruption rocking the Ministry of Health and Child Care, is said to have volunteered to take over the portfolio after vicious haggling.
The dethroned ex-Health minister Moyo is on $50 000 bail after he was accused of single-handedly awarding a Covid19 medical drugs tender to Delish Nguwaya, who is understood to be a close friend of Mnangagwa’s children.
The controversial Nguwaya, who is country representative for Drax SAGL and Drax International companies was arrested over a US$60 million drugs procurement scandal.
Nguwaya was also freed on $50 000 bail by High Court judge, Justice Pisirayi Kwenda. In granting him bail, the latter said Nguwaya cannot be blamed for approvals made by government officials.
VP Chiwenga, who allegedly pushed for the eventual ouster of the tainted former minister Moyo after his arrest, is understood to be working on a mission to clean the mess in the health sector before the next elections in 2023, in the pursuit of brightening Zanu PF chances of winning the poll.
“Chiwenga’s first task is to get doctors and nurses back to work and I am sure he is going to do that this coming week,” said an inside source.
“He will try to make things work in the Health ministry and all hospitals to function and save lives, reinventing his legacy in the process,” the source said.
Although it was not yet clear how Chiwenga would be able to get the striking health workers back at work, it is reported that negotiations for the cash-strapped Zimbabwe Government to remunerate medical staffers in United States dollars were now at an advanced stage.
However, Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba (pictured below) refused to comment on the controversial appointment of Chiwenga as the new minister of health.
“I am too serious for those kind of conversations,” said Charamba.
Despite Chiwenga playing a leading role in the 2017 coup which propelled Mnangagwa to the presidency, the relations of the two Zanu PF politicians have dramatically crumbled in recent months with the duo allegedly clashing a fortnight ago in a volatile cabinet meeting.
Mnangagwa, whose late predecessor Robert Mugabe was in 2017 ousted in a military coup euphemistically referred to as Operation Restore Legacy, is said to have openly accused Chiwenga of working on another coup plot to have him removed from the presidency.
Loyalists of the Chiwenga faction, such as suspended Politburo member Cleveria Chizema, have reportedly been fingered as backing the anti-government July 31 movement.
Chizema, who was found in possession of posters advertising the eventually foiled July 31 protests, has denied working on a plot to oust Mnangagwa.
Additional Reporting: Zwnews